A Dream Fulfilled…Part 2

Today’s post is Part 2 of our Ithaca, New York birding vacation recap. You can read Part 1, which was our first day at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, here.

I have to admit, there was one thing I was worried about before we left for the trip: weather. The forecast was set to be beautiful for Thursday, but it was supposed to rain all day Friday and Saturday. I was slightly disappointed by the idea of rain because this trip was all about birding and being outdoors. I really treasured our time at the Lab on Thursday because I thought it would be the only day we would be able to walk around there.

It did rain on Friday morning. We had a plan though. We spent the morning at the  Museum of the Earth. Museum of the Earth is part of the Paleontological Research Institution, whose building is located right next door. If you ever go to Ithaca, New York I recommend visiting the museum. It details the history of Earth spanning 4.5 billion years ago to today. As you walk through the museum you can view thousands of fossils and some cool dioramas. According the the Museum’s website, they take care of 2-3 million specimens. It was a fascinating subject to learn about.

By the time we left the Sun was mostly out and it seemed to dry up. We were blessed with dry weather for the rest of the day, so we headed back to the Lab. We didn’t walk as much as Thursday but it was just as rewarding. Some of my favorite moments were:

  • Watching a Great Blue Heron play with a fish it caught while another heron and Red-winged Blackbird looked on
  • More chippies!
  • Snakes swimming through the pond
  • Observing and listening to a beautiful Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • A Baltimore Oriole who seemingly “followed” us through the forest singing

We spent more time on Friday exploring the inside of the Lab. I enjoyed seeing the new Wall of Birds Mural in the stairwell. As part of the Lab’s centennial celebration last year, artist Jane Kim and Ink Dwell Studios created “From So Simple A Beginning”. This mural highlights birds evolution and highlights species from all over the world. I was excited to view it because I watched all the live streams and seminars about it while it was being painted. There are paintings throughout the Lab of various birds and a cool hummingbird taxidermy display. We watched the Feeder Cam from above in the Adelson Library and viewed a Mourning Dove nest from an observatory that overlooks the pond. I loved visiting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and hope to go hiking there again in the future.

After lunch Dave and I walked back to Cascadilla Gorge. This time we climbed the 400-foot incline to the Cornell University campus. It is certainly not a walk for everyone (the incline is steep) but it is definitely rewarding. While walking to the Gorge, Dave and I were discussing the Museum of the Earth and fossils. We started to look for fossils and ended up finding them all over the place! In Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region fossils are abundant. They all date from the Ordovician and Devonian periods from 450 to 360 million years ago. The ones we found were mainly clams and crinoids, also known as sea lilies. Dave found a somewhat large piece that looked like a whole small ecosystem that we took with us. It was awesome seeing all the fossils and the breathtaking waterfalls.

cascadilla waterfall
Cascadilla Gorge (Image by BirdNation)
A crinoid and clam fossil found by Dave (Image by David Horowitz)

Saturday was our last day in Ithaca. On the way home we visited Buttermilk Falls State Park. This gorge was definitely “gorge-ous”, just like the slogan “Ithaca is Gorges!” tells us :-).  We took the Gorge Trail, which elevates to 450 feet. We did not hike the entire trail but what we did see was spectacular. We ended up finding some small clam and crinoid fossils that we took as souvenirs. Again, we were blessed with lovely weather which we didn’t expect. I’m glad we stopped at Buttermilk Falls on the way home, because it was a wonderful way to end the vacation.

I had a wonderful time in Ithaca. I would love to visit the area again to enjoy all the natural beauty in the area. If you are looking to have a vacation that revolves around nature activities I highly recommend staying in Ithaca, New York.

Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily go birding in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but love to travel. I am currently a biology student with interests in conservation biology, ornithology, and environmental sciences. My dream is to go birding in all 50 states.

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